House Plants offers an incisive look at the nature of taste and judgement, exploring how these touchstones of western art are expressed and applied in suburban and domestic environments.
Payne Shurvell is pleased to announce ‘House Plants’, the second solo show of Andrew Curtis with the gallery.
‘House Plants’ offers an incisive look at the nature of taste and judgement, exploring how these touchstones of western art are expressed and applied in suburban and domestic environments. The show consists of two bodies of work. In the first group of prints, Curtis adapts photographs from architectural magazines, reprinting images of suburban homes with each of their windows subtly and carefully blacked out. The artist applies a similar process in the second set of prints, taking photographs of domestic setting that feature house plants, masking all background and context to set ferns and flowers against a field of black.
Curtis derives his motifs and subject matter from books and manuals that not so long ago informed the taste, habits and methods that middle class Britons used to shape the internal and external environment they inhabited. He reprocesses these images as digital prints before masking the windows in the houses, or all background and context of the house plant images, with Rotring ink or exterior enamel paint.The context and purpose of the photographs are thus transformed to ask questions about popular taste and visual pleasure.
The windows of these mundane homes offer the artist a set of structures that conceal as much as they reveal, and by applying a black monochrome surface the window itself becomes a mask, a void and a radically open-ended signifier. The window no longer offers a transition between inside and out, but becomes its own medium, addressing the surface of the photographic object and the facade of suburban experience, asking about the nature of this surface and how it communicates to a mass audience. The windows also take on the form of a modernist abstraction, as if the spirit of Malevich and Mondrian had stealthily moved into the British suburbs.
Traditional debates about beauty often begin with questions about nature and natural forms – the shape and colour of a flower, the droop or silhouette of a tree, the green and pleasant surfaces of a pastoral landscape. Curtis recuperates a humble house plant to create a microcosm of that debate, asking whether natural forms retain their beauty when cut off from their context or purpose. A fern takes on the form of a universal plant, a flower becomes isolated and grotesque, a cactus a strange excrescence: without their familiar setting, the plants take on a new form, a strange melancholy beauty that elevates them from their mundane origins. The opposite of the black void is the particular, living thing, and here Curtis opens up a conversation about the absence of form and detail in depiction. How much information can you eliminate before the picture ceases to function as an objective image? Do we appreciate the shapes and colours in themselves, or is it because they promise something else that we find them attractive?
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